William Donaldson's Week: Please let me tackle the 49ers

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The Independent Online
WHAT'S all this fuss about what 'back to basics' means? Those of us who take our morality from the 49ers' locker room (more accurately, in my case, from the Dolphins' locker room) have never been in doubt.

It means nanny knows best, finish your greens, pull up your socks, mens sana in corpore etc etc, and, most crucially, get out there and kick arse.

And how about those 49ers, eh? In the week before the game against the Giants, it was 'back to basics' with a vengeance. Blocking and tackling, domination at the line of scrimmage - that's what wins matches, not a crew of snake-hipped fancy Dans high-fiving and doing back-flips in the end zone.

Uncertain hitherto against the rush, the defense restricted Rodney Hampton to a couple of yards and as for the offense, well, did you ever see anything like it? Twenty-two-stone guards leading the plays and blocking like running backs. And talk about pass protection: Steve Young could have come on to the field in an easy-chair, lit a cigar and still have found his wide receivers - not that he needed to find his wide receivers, what with Ricky Watters scoring a touch-down every time he had the ball.

Excuse me. I thought I'd slip that in before Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co (philosophy department) - which, as you may remember, now sub-edits me in place of Roger from Chicago - take over. They want this week's column to be about old Mrs Matthews, 96, who, it seems, is back with the Independent, having taken offence at a philosophical betise in the Sunday Telegraph. I want it to be about American football. Which of us prevails will become clear as we proceed.

Meanwhile, and talking about pass protection (or the lack of it), Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co allowed me to be sacked in the pocket twice this week, once by my sister Bobo and once by Amy Jenkins.

First up was my sister Bobo, who is greatly displeased with me for having said here that our father was a self-made millionaire from Glasgow. She's a formidable woman, is my sister Bobo. Should it be necessary to feature her in El Independo, my satirical soap for BBC2, she could be played by Penelope Keith, and I said as much when she made her displeasure known on Monday.

'You could be played by Penelope Keith,' I said.

'Don't be silly,' my sister Bobo said. 'She isn't a lady.'

'Nor are you,' I said.

My sister Bobo made a noise like a lid lifting off a kettle. 'Don't be pert with me,' she said. 'Our father was common but our mother was descended from Fletcher Christian of the Bounty.'

Here was a turn-up. Mr Christian, as every schoolboy knows, was cast away on a desert island, where he coupled polygamously with the natives - the upshot being that his dependents were all as black as your hat. Small wonder that a year ago almost to the day I underwent a colour change; decided, you may remember, that, since my soul had been black since birth, I should wear pumped up Air Jordans and lead with a political injunction on my head.

'I'm as black as your hat,' I said to Amy Jenkins when she summoned me for a rollicking on Tuesday.

'Never mind that,' she said. 'How dare you say that I left the Independent's Christmas party with a Millwall supporter. I'll have you know that I'm a Strachey on my mother's side, and I want you to instruct Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co to say as much in this week's column.'

'There won't be room for that,' I said. 'This week's column will be devoted to American football and 'back to basics'.'

In the event, Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co put up an argument on this.

'How about those 49ers, eh?' I said to their Mr Alway at our Friday meeting. 'Not since Ronnie Lott hit the God-fearing Mark Bavaro like a wrecking-ball from outer space . . .'

'Never mind Ronnie Lott,' said Mr Alway. 'I want you to make it clear in this week's column that Mrs Matthews . . .'

'Smacked into him,' I said, 'from nowhwere . . .'

. . . is back with the Independent, following a philosophical howler in the Sunday Telegraph . . .'

'Talk about a cartoon cat . . .'

'In the course of an impertinent profile of Lady Warnock, they said that two philosophical principles run through her public life . . .'

'Splat]] Poor old Mark Bavaro]'

'The first ('consequentialism'),' persisted Mr Alway, 'is that law and morality can only be determined by their likely consequences, since there are no discernible moral principles on which everyone can agree . . .'

'Sprayed all over Candlestick Park in his various disassembled parts]'

' The second is that those who do believe that there are such things as objective moral principles - principles that ought to govern law and morality - should be excluded from the decision-making process.'

'Talk about 'back to basics',' I said. 'Guards built like outside toilets leading the plays, blocking like . . .'

'Mrs Matthews, aged 96,' said Mr Alway, 'wants us to make it clear that consequentialism is precisely an objective moral theory; further, and following Honderich, that it's difficult to see what would count as a moral principle which didn't take the consequences of an action into account.'

'Anything else?' I asked.

'Yes,' said Mr Alway, 'Ryle has shown that talk of 'minds', or 'souls' - as a kind of ghostly exertion behind the hardware - leads to an infinite regress. Hence, your insistence that 'inside' you're black singles you out as a walking category mistake. See you next week.'

Bring back Roger from Chicago, that's what I say - what you say, too, I shouldn't wonder.